TNI Year End Interview With DC Direct's Georg Brewer Brewer
As 2006 winds down, DC Direct's own Georg Brewer was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us and our readers.
TNI: Mr. Brewer, first I was wondering for those who aren't familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and what exactly it is you do at DC Direct?
Brewer: My primary responsibility, besides being the main cheerleader for the line, is to oversee the creative development side of the DC Direct business. The very talented group of folks working on the team (and making the line a look as good as it does) work with the sculptors and artists to design and develop the product, design the packaging and promotional materials, create the look for our trade show presence and anything else that comes down the pipe.
TNI: Can you run through the process of how a character goes from concept to actual product?
Brewer: This could be a an entire series of articles, as it is a pretty involved process.
The short version (once a character has been placed on the schedule) first involves researching the appropriate comic reference, commissioning new control art if needed, and constructing a quote request for our vendors overseas. In this we define the size, complexity, articulation, color application, etc to get an idea of the manufacturing costs. Next we assign a sculptor, review the project and then work with them to bring it to sculptural life. Once the sculpt is "approved", molds and tool parts have to be made, then a paint prototype. All of this comes into DCD Central where it is reviewed with our fine Production Department and sent off to the selected vendor. This gets us into production where there are various stages of review (the production molds, paint application, packaging, etc) leading up to a finished figure.
There are many steps and many people that work incredibly hard to bring a figure concept to life. The entire process can take a year to complete, and if you multiply the steps by the number of figures we do each year, you will understand why I am going gray.
TNI: How long does it take once you have decided on a line, to get it made and on the shelves?
Brewer: We started developing the 2008 line plan in August of this year, and we continually course correct throughout. In general, it take 10 to 12 months once the machine starts running to take an idea and get it onto the shelves in stores.
TNI: With so many of today's DC Direct figures based on comic-specific storylines and artist renditions, do you have to wait till those storylines are complete before you start work on the figure line, or do you start working on the line at the same time the writers and artisit are working on said storyline? Also when figures are based off a specific artisits work, how much input does that artisit have on the line?
Brewer: Much depends on the availability of material. With some titles like Identity Crisis we worked closely with the creators to get the figures out as quickly as possible. Other times we have to wait to follow the story development to see where the characters are going editorially and visually. On any lines that are based on a specific artistic style, we work with the artists closely to let them be as involved as possible to ensure we capture the best representation of their art.
TNI: This is a question that many of our readers have been asking. Why does there seem to be such a variation in scale from line to line?
Brewer: That is a complicated situation that has caused me -- and I know our consumers -- much frustration. Several factors go into contributing to this problem. One is the fact that we work with a variety of sculptors all over the world, rather than an in-house staff. We provide guidelines and direction, but problems can arise -- some sculpt in true 1:1, some try to compensate for production shrink, etc. In addition we work with many factories overseas, and each have slightly different processes and materials which can further lead to variation. PVC material does shrink in production, which can range anywhere from 1~2% to as much as 3~6%. While this does not sound like much, it can be significant on a 6" figure.
Clearly this is one of those challenges we have not met as successfully as I would like. We have a system in place now that has been in development for a while that should mitigate if not eliminate this problem from the late 2007 product on. If you look back over the last few years this has certainly improved (Crisis Batman aside, don't get me started...) and is a renewed priority for the coming year. The other challenge we face now is to decide how best to "reset" the bar, so to speak, with the fans, and in a practical sense to determine what the baseline heights will be given what has been produced.
TNI: How do you decide how much articulation a figure should have? There seems to be a demand from collectors for more articulation, is DC Direct considering increasing the amount of articulation used on its figures?
Brewer: We look at each character and try to decide what makes the most sense both aesthetically and practically. More articulation does add costs, and it seems that for the most part the artistic look of the figures is more important to the most fans than lots of articulation. There are a number of highly articulated lines out there, which I love as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure that is needed for the entire line. However, one of our best selling figures of all time was the 21 point of articulation Superman, which is a place we may be visiting again in the future.
TNI: Which is your favorite DC Direct figure or the one you are most proud of?
Brewer: This is always tough, as each holds a place with me. If I had to pick I would say that the 1:6th scale line is the thing that excites me the most these days, as it is full of many new challenges. In the core line I like the really different looking figures like, Mongul — man, he is big -- Salaak and OMAC.
TNI: Which DCD figure are are you least proud of and would like to go back and redo?
Brewer: How far back are we going? (ha!) Of the more recent stuff I would say the Crisis on Infinite Earth's Batman missed the mark. The final size is one thing, but, stylistically I think it is not quite what it needs to be to represent the definitive Silver Age Batman. There will be another opportunity in '08 if everything comes together where it will be done to everyone's satisfaction.
TNI: Has DC Direct ever considered moving beyond the collector market to do figures for mass retail like TRU? If not, is there any chance that DC will allow an outside company to do figures for the entire DC Universe, like say Mattel who already has the license to do Batman and Superman character for mass retail?
Brewer: DC Comics has a very valuable partner in Mattel who bring our classic characters to the mass market like no other. DC Direct however will also be getting into developing a line for mass retail outlets, but it will not be in the way you imagine. Stay tuned for more developments.
TNI: With the solicitations for August 2007 having just been released, are there any surprises on the horizon you can drop any clues about for us? Will we see Detective Chimp in 07?
Brewer: No Det. Chimp (or G'Nort for that matter) in '07, but there are few tricks still up our collective sleeve. There is a wondrous new line coming, a mighty classic line and even a line extension of a popular titles on the action figure frontier, so stay tuned.
TNI: Thanks again to Mr. Brewer for answering our questions.
Brewer: Always a pleasure. GB
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